Russia versus Ukraine, good versus evil, and two kleptocratic shades of gray
This is not a comic book hero story.
There are geopolitical realities, and then there are ideological frameworks and constructs that don’t bear any resemblance to reality. In America today, we are dealing with the latter framework through shoddy, biased war reporting, presented to us by the corporate media and our ruling class, which insists upon a dichotomy that doesn't exist.
Let’s talk about reality, detached from all of the morality signaling on social media and TV.
Though Russia is the aggressor, and is therefore, responsible for most of the violence and suffering in Ukraine, this does not mean Ukraine can suddenly be labeled as an extension to American founding ideals.
We, the free people of the world, can absolutely support a country that is currently defending itself, but we don’t need to pretend that Ukraine is something that it is not.
Ukraine and Russia might sport separate flags, and they might currently play for different Great Power teams, but the two nations are not so different, after all. On the governance scale, both countries rank as two of the most kleptocratic and corrupted countries on earth. In Russia, oligarchs have heavy sway over the economy and politics of the nation. The same applies in Ukraine, where the sitting president was elected as the mere patron of a powerful oligarch. The average Ukrainian struggles mightily under this unfair, broken system. Ukraine is a country of abject poverty, where the average citizen earns around $3700 bucks a year.
In 2021, Ukraine’s President Zelensky, facing declining poll ratings, took it upon himself to place his foremost political rival under house arrest, while shutting down opposition television networks, all in the name of “national security.”
Why don’t Russia and Ukraine get along? Well, sometimes they do. Ukrainians often elect both pro-West and pro-Russia candidates to higher office. Western governments, in recent history, have not supported when the latter situation occurs, sometimes fomenting clandestine color revolutions to seek their exit from politics in Ukraine.
Longstanding tribalism, historical disputes, and committed atrocities are also responsible for a fierce dislike between some Ukrainians and Russians. The Soviet Union, through genocide, famine, and other means, committed unspeakable atrocities against the Ukrainian people, and because of this, some Ukrainians understandably resent the USSR’s progeny in their slavic cousins to the east.
But again, the idea that Ukraine is a Jeffersonian Democracy squaring off against the Evil Bear Empire in Russia is simply false. We read a lot about Putin’s authoritarianism in the news, but we do not hear much about the troubles within Ukraine, most likely because because it is less consequential on the world stage. And during the current Russia-Ukraine squabble, Kyiv has, for its part, spawned some troublesome ideologies within its own ranks.
Ukrainian leaders now seem committed to trying to drag their Western partners into face to face conflict with Russia. Ukrainian politicians have a lot to lose, including, potentially their lives, so their desperation is somewhat understandable.
Ukraine might be winning the propaganda war, but the war on the ground tells a different story. Russia continues to secure access to the sea, and it will soon succeed in completely cutting off Ukrainian forces. Russia might be facing heavy sanctions, but its armies continue vacuuming up territory in Ukraine.
So far, NATO (the United States military) has rejected intervening and they should not intervene, because World War 3 is not worth it. But powerful western interests in Washington, D.C. and Brussels are attempting to use Ukrainians as pawns for a longstanding political campaign against Moscow. The massive weapons shipments continue to arrive in western Ukraine, with hopes that Ukrainians will use them in a long campaign against Russia. I hope Ukrainians recognize this, and refuse to act as human sacrifices for these campaigns.
Ukraine, facing a tug of war between Russia and the West, has a way out of the mess, if only its leaders choose to accept the reality it is facing.
Putin’s terms are pretty straightforward.
The recognition of Crimea as part of Russia
The demilitarization of Ukraine
Given that this is Russia’s initial approach, Ukraine can probably find some flexibility on the second demand. Though key to the agreement will come through Ukraine recognizing some geopolitical realities, like the fact that Crimea is most certainly gone, and that the pro-Russia separatist regions in Ukraine want nothing to do with Ukraine.
Since its modern recognition in 1991, Ukraine has remained bogged down by corruption, bad governance, and damaging foreign influence. Should Ukraine truly commit to remaining neutral, the country can reset relations with its neighbors and one day become a free and prosperous nation.
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